Appeals Court Hears Pinewild Annexation Case
Pinewild annexation opponents had their day in court again Wednesday. Having lost at the local level, they took their case to the N.C. Court of Appeals, which heard an hour of arguments Wednesday.
Whatever the court decides, the loser is certain to appeal to the Supreme Court of North Carolina. Pinehurst cannot legally annex Pinewild until 30 days after a final decision. A ruling by the court of appeals is expected in early summer, with a 30-day window to appeal. After that, it could take three months for N.C. Supreme Court justices to make a final ruling. That would make late December the most likely time for an end to the matter as far as the state is concerned. A different approach lies in opponents of involuntary annexation (which they call "forced annexation") getting the General Assembly to change the law.
As a rule, three judges sitting as the Court of Appeals hear three cases in the morning, three more judges hear three cases in the afternoon. If one case or another is dropped, the next case in line moves up. That is what happened Wednesday when this case, originally No. 3 for the morning session was heard at 10:30 a.m. rather than an hour later.
Each side has 30 minutes, with the appellant (Pinewild) going first. Attorney Robert Hornik Jr., attorney for annexation opponents, made anti-annexation arguments citing the contention that at the time North Carolina's involuntary annexation law was passed back in the 1950s, gated communities like Pinewild hardly existed. That law should not apply to them, as they are virtually independent municipalities in their own right already, opponents argue.
Another argument is the contention that Pinehurst must show how the town could possibly offer garbage collection or police protection when all the streets are private.
Michael Newman gave the response of the municipality, the Village of Pinehurst. He has always argued there is no special exemption from being annexed for people just because they put up a fence and gate around their property or have banded together to provide town-like services.
Under the law, he says, the village does not actually have to provide any services, it only has to offer them to Pinewild when it annexes the area.
Now the three judges will consider, take a vote and assign one of the three to write an opinion. If it splits 2 to 1, the loser has an automatic right of appeal to the state supreme court. If the decision is unanimous, losers may still petition "discretionary review" but those are rarely granted.
Something should be heard by early July, according to Newman.
"Annexation could take place late this year," he said, "(or) early next year once Pinehurst prevails."
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